BEND, OR -- Bend Police and the Deschutes County District Attorney’s office spent weeks investigating an alleged robbery near Shevlin Park involving two men in a black van, only to discover the supposed victim made up the story; but not before her daughter’s Facebook post detailing the attack went viral. The daughter didn’t know it was a lie and the D.A. says her mother didn’t initially realize the story had gone public.
Bend Police Chief Jim Porter says it’s an example of the power of social media and its occasional conflict with law enforcement, "Our social media is a double-edged sword. It brings us a lot of good things, but then again, on the other side, we can end up chasing things that are just smoke and mirrors." Chief Porter tells KBND News the Shevlin Park story isn’t the first time investigators found themselves chasing Facebook falsehoods, "They fan fear within the community. They’ve drawn resources away from other things we could be doing: traffic enforcement, helping people, doing those things. But, that’s the nature of the beast when you deal with humans. I mean, sometimes things just get out of control, they get on the internet and [it’s] the old game ‘Operator’ – where you whisper in one ear and by the time it comes around the circle on the other side, it’s a completely different thing."
He says Facebook and other platforms make it easy to get important information out quickly, but misinformation can often get caught in the mix, "It’s that give and take between keeping the public safe and getting the facts out there. And facts very seldom come in a very timely manner. They take time, you’ve got to chase people down – find them, rather than chase them down – get their statements, corroborate statements and try to get to the truth." Porter says Facebook users should question things posted by unofficial sources, and don’t be afraid to check with police. "If you see something unusual, call and ask us. We’re more than glad to address those issues. If it’s an ongoing investigation, we may not give you the details until we complete the investigation. But, just call and ask, be a critical thinker, work your way through things."